Midnight Madness is treasure chest of fun memories
Story by Mark Heller
Photos by Darryl Webb
GCU News Bureau
Standing in line for hours. Pyrotechnics. Coaches on motorcycles. Mad dashes for seats. Seats and floors shaking.
Now imagine actual basketball games being played.
The schedules say one month remains before the Grand Canyon University men’s and women’s basketball teams play their first games, but a near capacity crowd appeared in midseason form for the annual Midnight Madness showcase Friday night at GCU Arena, an “Apocalopes” theme befitting Halloween later this month. And a night befitting for an arena and atmosphere that already has drawn national attention.
As Friday night showed, it doesn’t take much to discover why:
10 p.m.: It’s 45 minutes before the Arena doors open and two hours before the showcase begins. Students are lined up in front of the arena. Those in the first couple rows have been there since late afternoon.
Behind them, the six-across line travels down the walkway in front of Roadrunner Apartments and Prescott Hall, across Lopes Way, between the North Rim Apartments and behind the Student Union.
According to Google Maps, that’s approximately a quarter of a mile in length.
10:55 p.m.: The Arena entrance finally swings open. Students race inside and make a beeline for the best seats they can get closest to the floor on the west and south sides of the building. This must have been how first-come, first-serve seating at Beatles concerts looked like.
11:15 p.m.: The Havocs’ cheers are in full swing, and the rest of the crowd follows the students’ lead. Meanwhile, the line to get into GCU Arena is still stretched down the walkway in front of Roadrunner.
A security guard stands on the second floor of the arena, looking outside toward the line of students waiting to enter that stretched for two football fields.
“Not even a game, either,” he says. “It’s crazy.”
11:30 p.m.: Splendid routines by the GCU dance and cheer teams are followed by a parade of flags, which further electrifies the crowd. The floor and stands are vibrating. It’s a good thing they were reinforced during the Arena’s 2014 expansion.
Midnight: Showtime. The lights dim, glow sticks are hurled into the crowd and Thunder enters wearing an Indiana Jones outfit. Then the drum line performs featuring Pastor Tim Griffin, GCU’s dean of students, in his best biker outfit.
“I don’t have many of these in my closet,” he says afterward with a laugh.
12:10 a.m.: Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams are introduced, followed by men’s basketball coach Dan Majerle’s grand entrance on a motorcycle wearing black clothes, his face painted and the bike engine revved. Not to be outdone, women’s coach Trent May enters shirtless, his body and face painted white while wearing combat boots.
12:15 a.m.: Majerle addresses the near-capacity crowd, encouraging the audience to set an even higher home-court standard after the Lopes won 18 Arena games last season and 27 overall. Following the Lopes’ first game of the season at Duke and its “Cameron Crazies” student section, GCU’s home schedule includes national powerhouse Louisville and San Diego State.
“We have to make sure they rue the day they came here,” Majerle says.
With that, he rips off his black shirt and exposes his torso, covered with purple paint with “GCU” in large black letters across his chest and stomach.
Welcome back, basketball.
Contact Mark Heller at (602) 639-7516 or Mark.Heller@gcu.edu